Monday, February 24, 2014

In Response to "5 Great Reasons Modern Women Should Celebrate the Death of Chivalry"

#1 I hope for fairness and justice for everyone, regardless of their gender.
#2 I believe everyone should be treated with respect, civility, and kindness.
#3 This article made me sad.

Because of the wide breadth of everything the term Feminism encompasses, I'm learning that I can't just simply call myself a feminist and expect my stance to be understood by whomever I'm talking with.  Turns out there are different areas/ideas/subgroups of Feminism that I strongly disagree with.  Some Feminists think women are better than men, some think no thought should be given to the (obvious and true) differences between men and women, some thing the concept of chivalry is toxic to a developing society.  Um, no.

I do understand where the author is coming from, and it does make sense.  I think I just disagree.  Rather, I don't think that chivalry really is that bad of a thing.  Rather (again), it's not a bad thing for me or my zone.

You know, I live in the South.  (I feel like I need to say that again: I Live In The South.)  Some of it might be silly, but especially in deep Southern culture, when a man wants to court a lady, it is expected that he show her great courtesy.  Heck, my sister won't date a guy unless he's asked Dad's permission first.  What I'm trying to get across is Plenty of people are maintaining traditional gender roles, and that's OKAY!  Honestly, I am all for people from all walks of life getting along.  World peace for everyone, but that world peace comes from respect.  The author isn't respecting this old and often beloved tradition.  The author wants to take it down.

This "benevolent sexism" (that's what people are calling chivalry these days) is apparently rooted in in the idea that men are stronger and women are weaker.  You know, especially when men were the only ones in the workforce and the only ones fighting while women were the ones working their butts off raising children and managing the household, I imagine those ladies appreciated what they thought of as acts of kindness and respect.  These days, the common acts of chivalry (opening doors is the only one I see between strangers these days) come from being trained to be polite, not to see women as less or as needing the door opened for them.

I do know of one guy whose stance on this made me scratch my head, though.  I dated a guy who grew up as a missionary kid in South America.  He was the oldest boy, and he had a younger sister and an even younger brother.  All of the kids would play in the jungle and swim in the piranha lake behind their house (no joke), but from what his parents taught him about treating his sister, this guy, even when he was 21 and dating me, believed that girls were kind of like China dolls.  He believed they were delicate and needed to be handled a very specific and careful way.

I later found out that this man had a very specific idea of what women are supposed to be, as well.  At least back when we were dating, he wanted a very certain girl, the kind that would support him in his dreams and who was fairly submissive and meek.  While it's fine for people to look for mates with specific characteristics, I believe this guy believed this kind of girl wasn't only right for him, but this kind of girl was right, period.  Basically, this guy, back when I knew him, displayed the kind of chivalry the article talks about, the kind that comes from ideas that women are weak and that they have their place in X, Y, and Z.

These ideas about women, these limiting gender roles, are incorrect and harmful, but this guy's chivalrous acts of holding the door for me weren't the problem.  His idea about girls being weak and incapable was the problem.  The idea or intention is the root here; chivalry (or politeness) is the effect.

For another example, the second guy I dated (and subsequently married) was also polite, held doors opened for me, and asked if I wanted help with difficult things.  I will say that I am often irked when he asks if I want help with difficult things because I've been trained to think that his response to my straining means that he doesn't think I'm capable.  It's when I step away from what angry Feminism has taught me that I realize he wants to help me with things just like how I want to help him with things, you know, like good humans do.

Anyway, Caleb bought me many dinners because, for him, it was the honorable thing to do and he wanted to show me how he wanted to provide for me.  You know, if we have children, I will want to spend at least a few months, and quite possibly longer, staying home to heal my body and to care for our baby.  It would be very important for us to have an income that supports us in that time and for all our life, and so for us it makes perfect sense that Caleb will be the main provider/bread winner in our family.  That's Okay.  Also, Caleb working his way into a great job can free me up to follow some of my own dreams.  That's another way him being the main provider is a great (and selfless and caring) thing.  I know that there are many women who work to live alone or who have salaries that provide a great income.  I myself wanted to and sometimes had to foot the bill when Caleb and I would go on dates.  There's nothing wrong with that, but there is also nothing wrong with Caleb paying for our meals and buying me dinner!  Just because some women don't like the idea of chivalry does not mean that our culture should be rid of it.

Another issue I have with the article:
It's foolish to insinuate that the broad range of chivalry makes women feel insecure.  For one thing, that study that said chivalry made women self conscious and feel bad about their bodies?  The one act of chivalry involved in the study was a guy telling a girl that he would go and get a heavy box for her.  And another thing: operating under the fear that you will offend someone if you offer to help them is ludicrous.  I'll be the first to admit that I am not as secure about my body as I could/should be, but that (seriously now) is an issue that I have to deal with.  Other people, too, are responsible for their own feelings.  Counselors, coping mechanisms, processing techniques, and a good support system are all very helpful resources, and of course I do know that some people don't have access to any of those things, but just like we can't censor everything to make everyone happy (Fahrenheit 451, people), we can't tiptoe around girls because they're most likely insecure.  Wouldn't that trip into putting women in a box, anyway?  And do we really want one group of people to be afraid of helping another group of people?  The act of fetching a heavy box for a girl is not a bad thing.  The roots of intentions and the roots of insecurity would the bad thing, and that's what needs to be addressed in this case, not the guy helping the girl.

I believe that all humans should better themselves to become interesting, productive members of society who have something to contribute in their arena.  Girls who haughtily expect men to do everything for them are pitiful and selfish.  Guys who think women shouldn't have to lift a finger are at the very least inhibiting said women from becoming more capable.  Being genuinely kind and polite outside of those things, though, are more than fine.  And gosh, if you're from Savannah or Charleston, you're going to find plenty of men who will hold the door for a lady.  Give them a break, people, and stop telling them that their way of life, their way of respect, their tradition, is wrong, because that chivalry is not hurting anybody.
Rather, if it does offend someone, they need to check themselves and heal their roots.

 What are your thoughts?


  1. Dear Lindsay,
    You are so smart and eloquent. I love how thoroughly you think through things.
    I have to say, part of me agrees with the article..particularly point two, that men, it seems, are more often "chivalrous" to pretty, dainty women, and if you don't fit into that stereotype, tough. That's rough.
    I also disagree with the article and agree with you on the fact that...being nice does not mean you think less of someone. Rather, I think it shows you think more highly of them because you want to do something for them. But I don't think that should at all be limited to men doing things for women. I wish all people were nicer and not a bunch of jerks (I work in retail, so I think less highly of people lately :P ).

    I love the idea of chivalry.
    I love the idea of all people holding doors for other people, just because it's nice.
    I think it's great for a man or woman to treat their date to dinner, but I think it's unfair for anyone to assume/make their date pay for all of their meals out. (Unless your married...then it's slightly different because the money is joint...)
    I guess, really, I just wish everyone would be nice and it wouldn't have to be such a freaking big deal.

    1. "...being nice does not mean you think less of someone." Yes! Absolutely yes. Thank you for articulating one of the things that bugged me most about this article.

      And I think that if people were nice to each other in general, like we all should be, the issue in the 2nd point of the article would be obsolete. I hadn't thought of it the way you phrased it, and if I were to see a guy hold a door for a bombshell then intentionally not hold it for me, I'd feel pretty dang bad about myself. For one, that'd go back to me not placing my happiness on a stranger, yes, but that guy's actions would be obviously derogatory. I haven't been on that side of chivalry, and I see how it would suck and why people would get angry about it, because you're right. People should be polite to others no matter what.

  2. So I'd been putting off reading your comment because I've been tired and out of it lately and figured I wouldn't be able to articulate a decent response, but apparently all I need to say is:
    Yes. I completely agree.

    1. ^_^ Glad to hear it!
      (I put off responding to your previous comment, too... heh.)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! If there is something you want me to respond to specifically, feel free to send me an email; I'd love to chat.